From Bio Journal - January 2010

Commercial cultivation of GM rice approved in China

Following approval of the GM aubergine in India, GM rice has been approved in China. The varieties that have been approved are the insecticidal (Bt) rice (Shanyou 63), previously discovered being distributed as a non-approved GM rice (see BJ August 2005, and (Huahui 1), developed by the same Huazhong Agricultural University. The safety certificate approved by the Chinese Agricultural Ministry is valid until August 2014, and cultivation is permitted in Hubei Province. China is the second country after Iran to approve commercial cultivation of GM rice, but cultivation is not proceeding in Iran and China is now likely to be effectively the first country to produce GM rice on a commercial basis. (Japan Agricultural Newspaper 2009/12/16, and others)

The Wall Street Journal reports (2009/12/01) that the US government and biotech companies pushed strongly for the Chinese governmentfs early approval of this GM Bt rice. (Please see Closeup below for further details.)

GM broccoli discovered in Tsu City

The Central Japan Association for Thinking about GM Foods, which has been conducting surveys on GM canola volunteers (see BJ November 2009), found a broccoli plant that appeared to be pesticide resistant in vacant ground along a national highway in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture in early November 2009. The plant gave a positive response to a test using a simple DNA testing kit, and when a PCR test for DNA was carried out later it was found that the plant contained the Roundup herbicide resistance gene. Since broccoli is in the same brassica family of plants as canola, it is thought that cross-fertilization with GM canola has occurred. This is the first time that genetic pollution has been confirmed in an agricultural plant in Japan, and there is concern that the pollution will spread to other agricultural plants in the brassica family, such as cabbage, Chinese cabbages, komatsuna, and so on. (Tokyo Shinbun 2009/11/21)

MEXT life science field also target of budget screening

A meeting of the MEXT Life Science Committee was held on 7 December 2009, at which the interim report stipulating the directionality of life science research in the Fourth Basic Plan for Science and Technology was finalized. The three pillars for important research tasks in the upcoming period were presented as: 1. An integrated understanding of life, 2. The realization of a society with health and longevity, and 3. The resolution of global-scale issues. The governmentfs life science-related budget for 315.4 billion yen in 2006, the first year of the Third Basic Plan and this increased by 30.7 billion yen to 346.1 billion yen in FY2009. Although it was thought that the budget would increase again smoothly in FY2010, the final year of the Third Basic Plan, there appear to be clouds gathering. As a result of the budget screening process carried out by the new Administration Renewal Conference, it was concluded that industry-academic-government collaborative strategic development projects, the Riken bioresource project, the target protein research project, the promotion program for an international communicable diseases network, and others should be either eabolishedf or have their ebudget request reduced.f It will be interesting to see how the actual budget allocations turn out.

Closeup: Repercussions of GM rice approval in China

On 4 December 2009, it was announced that the Chinese government had formally approved GM rice. Since it is illegal in China to carry out movements critical of the Chinese government or its policies, it now looks certain that China will be the first country to cultivate GM rice.

Biotech corporations and China
The St. Louis Post (2009/11/05) reports that Monsanto announced on November 4 that it will open its first facility in China. The Monsanto Biotechnology Research Center will be constructed in the Beijing suburbs and will carry out R&D jointly with Chinese research institutes. Further, China Knowledge has reported (2009/11/09) that the German corporation Bayer CropScience will carry out joint research with Chinafs national rice research institute.

China to become a major GM crop cultivator
At present, the GM plants being cultivated in China are cotton, tomato, poplar, petunia, papaya, sweet pepper (according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications), and if rice and maize are added to this list China will become a major GM crop cultivating country.

Up to now, three types of GM rice have been under development in China. 1. Insecticidal (Bt) rice, 2. CpTI (cowpea trypsin inhibitor) rice resistant to the Lepidoptera Chilo suppressalis Walker, and 3. Bacterial disease resistant (Xa21) rice. The insecticidal (Bt) GM rice variety approved was cultivated illegally in 2005 and was discovered to have been distributed worldwide, calling attention to Chinafs poor management capabilities. As this rice now goes into fully-fledged commercial planting there is anxiety that incidents may arise that once again call these management capabilities into question. Further, this is also the first time for a former non-approved rice that was distributed for human consumption has been approved.

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(English Index)